In some ways, the launch of an Aniplex branch in China is surprising, and in others, it’s obvious. Since anime series and films have become more reliant on licensing overseas, both the United States and China have become large parts of how anime gets both consumed and funded. However, whilst there’s been countless attempts to establish subsidiaries in the US, many companies have been slow to accept China as a part of the anime market.
There’s a lot of historic and racial reasons for this which I’m not even going to get into, but it’s also true that there’s this global mystique about becoming popular in the US, particularly in relation to film and Hollywood. But it’s finally looking like major companies are willing to properly invest in the Chinese market, starting with Sony Music Japan’s Aniplex branch. After all, it’s worth a reported 3 trillion yen (approx. $27 billion USD).
Aniplex Shanghai will begin by selling merchandise from popular properties like the wildly successful Fate/Grand Order mobile game, as well as from the multitude of anime properties they own the rights to. The eventual plan is to have the company build connections and eventually work together to co-produce anime series. Right now, Chinese companies such as Haoliners have been setting up branches in Japan to invest in anime creation, but Aniplex’s plan is to reverse that.
However, it’s worth noting that even though more money going into anime creation should be a good thing, anime staff are still often overworked and underpaid. Aniplex’s plan to find even more ways of producing anime series will increase the amount of anime produced overall, and could potentially lead to hospitalized staffers like the case with a recent Madhouse production assistant.
Aniplex needs to tread carefully with how it greenlights these projects. If studios have to overwork their teams to create these series, then maybe they shouldn’t be made at all. This could also be a way of bringing the work of Chinese animation talents to the Japanese market, but that also would need to be done in a way that respects their talents and the time it takes to unleash them.